I am a huge fan of social media and especially blogging and Twitter so I get really excited when I see someone or some organization that I love has created a blog or signed up for Twitter. The disappointing part is when it’s obvious they have not really planned what they want to utilize the blog for or what they want to tweet about and eventually lets the account die.
When I first created my own personal blog I did not have a focused goal of what I wanted to include in it so it rambled along from one thing to another and eventually I lost interest and stopped writing. A few years later I decided I wanted a blog that focused mostly on book reviews and other things going on the book industry. I found it much easier to focus and keep motivated to post to my blog once I had a set topic.
I think if a library wants to create a blog they need to first plan out what type of content do they want to be posting about, what is the minimum number of times they want to be posting and does someone on the staff have the time to dedicate to writing these posts. Besides having a lack of focus, underestimating the amount of time it takes to maintain a blog is another key obstacle to keeping up with a blog.
I follow the blogs of two of my local libraries and I honestly feel one does a much better job than the other in keeping my interest. One utilizes their blog almost solely for posting about an upcoming event. I found the problem with this is the posts are so infrequent, often weeks go by without an update, that I forget to go take a look at it until an event I might have been interested in is long past. The other thing that is lacking is the interaction with the reader. I find the main difference between a blog and an ordinary website is asking for others opinions, posting comments and replying to comments makes a blog much more interactive than simply posting information that can also be found on the library’s website. I do not know if this infrequency of posting is due to lack of time on the staff’s part, lack of a plan on what to post about or if this was always the goal of their blog but it failed to really engage me as a patron.
The other library does a better job in that they have a weekly post called “Monday Children’s Books Review” in which as expected they talk about various children’s books. First off this caught my eye because I heavily utilize my library to find books to read to my children. Second, this is a weekly post so I know that I can check back each week and there will be something new posted. Third, since I do check in weekly I also happen to catch any other posts they have written during the week about other topics or upcoming events. I do wish they did more with responding to comments as I have left comments and have seen other people leave comments but no one responds back to them.
Many of the articles we read about libraries utilizing Twitter are several years old but I think it’s safe to say the number of people on Twitter is much higher now. I think Twitter can take advantage of Twitter by using it to communicate with patrons and also to monitor patrons satisfaction with the library’s services as mentioned in this blog post from a senior librarian at the National University of Singapore. My county library system is on Twitter and imagine my amazement when they replied to a complaint I made on Twitter. They were able to resolve my problem and not only was I happy that I found an answer to my problem but I was even happier knowing that they were listening and actively trying to assist patrons. Since then I’ve utilized Twitter to ask questions about book requests, open hours, holiday closures, etc. All things that granted can be found on their website but it is so much more convenient to simply tweet and get an answer rather than having to remember to bookmark the library site on every computer I use or have to search to find the url to the library’s website and then navigate to find the information I want.
I think other types of tweets patrons would find useful is updates about upcoming events at the library, a highlight of new book arrivals, information about events going on around the city or especially during these times information about funding or cuts that may affect library services. Just today I happen to see a tweet about the cuts to California’s funding for libraries. I had not heard about this before and re-tweeted the article and saw other re-tweets. I don’t know if this will translate into more support for libraries but it definitely helps get the news into the public eye.
As social media becomes more and more ingrained into every generation I think libraries need to embrace these technologies in order to keep up with their patrons. It opens up new avenues of communication and possibly even new services to keep libraries relevant.